The Text Matters: Eye Movements Reflect the Cognitive Processing of Interrogation Rights

Kyle C. Scherr, Stephen J. Agauas, Jane Ashby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Suspects' decisions to waive or invoke interrogation rights have considerable impact on whether subsequent interrogations ensue, self-incriminating information is offered, and in the case of innocent suspects, wrongful convictions occur. Although interrogation warnings differ in their text characteristics, empirically examining the influence of these text differences on suspects' ability to process and comprehend their rights has largely been neglected, which is especially problematic for vulnerable populations. Using a novel approach, we monitored the eye movements of 60 juveniles as they silently read different versions of Miranda warnings in order to investigate the relationship among text characteristics, processing difficulty, and comprehension problems. Results indicated that text characteristics were associated with processing difficulties and these processing difficulties were strongly correlated with comprehension of the warnings. Along with advancing basic and applied research programs, this approach can inform policy decisions and benefit vulnerable populations whose comprehension of interrogation rights is encumbered by legalese.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-241
Number of pages8
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


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